Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Your Site Manager ISN'T Your Wedding Planner.

I enjoy this industry (if you haven't been able to tell) and I enjoy all the wonderful people that I get to meet.  So, I try not to be too disappointed of how some people view Wedding Planners.  We get a pretty bad rap, especially here in the Cleveland area.  I don't mind so much because, as you'll see from any planner's reviews the clients that do work with us, LOVE us.  As well they should, we help make their most stressful/anxiety-filled day calm and magical.  Who wouldn't love that?  Well the answer, sadly, is not everyone.

My current issue is Site Managers.  What that term means, in the sense that I'm using it, is the contact person you have at the facility you rent for your wedding location.  Either the Banquet Manager, Chef, Hall Coordinator, Site Director, etc..different names for people that run the facility. 

Now of course I don't mean ALL Site Managers, I just mean some, and it doesn't happen often but when it does it  is totally damaging to a coordinators ability to work at a facility.  Some Site Managers will go so far as to recommend that the bridal client DOES NOT hire a Wedding Planner.  Why, would anyone ever say this?  Well, the Site Manager will claim that they can handle all of the details that a Wedding Planner would normally handle.  They suggest that the Bridal client can save herself $1000's if she just doen't bother with a Wedding Planner who will "just get in the way of their staff" and "try to manage everyone/boss everyone around." 

There goes that client.  I've had a client tell me that she was reconsidering working with me after talking to her Site Manager because as the Site Manager put it she "really encourages her clients to NOT bring along a planner, as they don't like planners getting in the way" OUCH. 

Two things then. 
One, some of the fault of that impression will go to the "bad" and "inexperienced" planners in the area.  You get one planner who either things too highly of him/herself or another planner who doesn't have a clue what she's doing and I'm certain I'd tell people to stay away from Wedding Planners as well. 

The other thing is that we, as Wedding Planners, don't just come on the day of the wedding (at least I don't).  We have prior meetings, planning sessions, detail, layout and design meetings to get the entire day together.  There is no site coordinator who is going to come when you try on dresses, or come to the florist meetings or your tastings or organize your bridal party or help you pick out programs.  Yes, they manage on your wedding day, and they are familiar with the site, but without the proper planning and involvement, it won't matter what they know, since they don't know the details.  I would say that "Day Of" isn't hardly half of what I do.  You work with clients 6 months, 12 months, 18 months prior to their wedding day and you get to know all you need to know about the event, the bride, her family and her friends.  That is what you need to know, to make everything work. 
With all that being said, I was, at one point, one of those people who worked for a hotel and didn't really understand why a planner would come along, so I do have to admit, I understand. 

However, I would never have suggested to a client that they NOT hire a planner as no matter what they did, they always seemed to make my job easier and do some of the tiny detail work that I never seemed to have time for and in the worst case they would jump in and help with the HUGE work that we were running around trying to get done.  I guess I never ran into a "bad" planner while working as a Site Manager.  Maybe that's why I don't understand.  Maybe it is because, no matter how difficult someone is to work with, I would always respect their position in the industry and know that hindering their ability to work, to be successful and to do their best, isn't going to end up making anyone look bad, except, well me.  And, no one should want to look bad.  Right?

Any Site Managers want to chime in?  Any Planners have any stories of Site Managers that you have dealt with or are dealing with?  Love to hear your feedback

Happy Planning,



  1. Well, I am not at a site manager or a wedding planner but ... as a photographer I have worked weddings both ways and one thing to remember is the site manager/venue coordinator works for the site, a wedding planner works for the bride.

    I wish I hired a wedding planner when I got married - not only for the sake of insuring a seamless day but having someone experienced to bounce ideas off of, to help me make decisions (and stop me from making bad ones) and to help filter all the information. There are so many options out there from venues, to centerpieces (I don't even want to say how many different "sample" centerpieces I considered), to dresses to invitations - it can lead to information overload, which for me made it hard to make decisions. Paying for a wedding planner would have been well worth it! She probably would have talked me out of the shish-kabobs : ).

  2. I am wedding planner & I completely agree with both of you. I've have spent 20 years in the industry, frankly on both sides, as a Site Manager and as an Event & Wedding planner and coordinator.

    Just like All Events Planned, we attend dress shopping, dress fittings, help pick out invites and assist with every detail through out the planning process. Our clients make the final decision but its our job to steer them so that they stay in budget and are happy with the end result. We work with the vendors and locations so we all become a team. When done properly everyone looks like a rock star. We're involved for hours, sometimes hundreds of hours in every aspect of the planning process to ensure that our clients have the day that they deserve.

    I've had couples come back to me after their weddings thrilled at how seamless everything worked from the time that they arrived and others that decided not to become clients saying that we were too expensive and tried to go the DIY route. After their wedding they came back saying how much they wished that they had spent the money and hired us, saved them money and kept the peace through out the planning process. And as always I hear that they never had one moments enjoyment on their wedding day because everyone was in their face as to what is to happen next. I felt so sad for them.

    When you can have the day you deserve spending a few thousand on an experienced planner and coordinator, when it saves your sanity during the planning process and several thousands in mistakes, I will never understand why someone wants to try the DIY route. Jennifer Lane, A Memory Lane Event & Wedding in Denver CO

  3. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
    I have heard there are conflicts between site managers and wedding planners, but I don't really understand where and when the disagreement start. For me, site managers and wedding planners are both very important and should corporate to perform an outstanding wedding. Most of all, they have different responsibilities, where are the conflicts come from?
    I would absolutely hire an wedding planner, because I don't think a site manager would have all the knowledge a wedding planner has.

  4. I love your post. I am a new business owner in the wedding planning industry and I have hit wall after wall when I try to network with venues. We aren't bad people!

  5. I am a Director of Catering for a full service hotel and was also a banquet manager prior to my going into the catering side. At one time I honestly have to say that I resented the wedding planners for their 'intrusion' in my space. That was, until I met the consummate professional wedding planner. She kept me in the loop with the brides decisions and solicited my opinion on venue-specifics such as table arrangements, flow, etc and it was a flawless evening. This was over 10 years ago and although I have met a few wedding planners that were less than professional since then I have to say the majority are a pleasure to work with. At this point, I am thrilled when one of my brides announces she has a wedding planner. It's actually less work for me even though I am still here for their bajillion questions at 2am!

  6. Well said... As an independent planner who has just moved to the area I'm in, I made it one of my first goals to go to just about every and any venue I could to meet with the "Site Manager". I made sure they knew who I was and I made it as clear as I possibly could that I would only help them with clients. Just about every place I went to knew that both of our goals was to accomplish the day that our clients had been dreaming of and that teaming up only benefited both of us.

    I highly suggest doing this as it shows them who you really are and they are much more eager to work with you (as opposed to any other planner, as well).

  7. Great post, Brandi!

    As a "full service" entertainment company, our DJs fairly often end up handling some of the "day of" reception duties that would ordinarily fall to a wedding planner or day-of coordinator just because they're there and they're willing, and we anticipate this (we actually carry an "emergency kit" with clear nail polish, a sewing kit, baby wipes, super glue, and a bunch of other stuff, LOL).

    From the very beginning we consider this to be part of our job. That being said, if someone (a wedding planner, for example) comes along and wants to lessen our load, we're happy to let you have it! Brides can absolutely use as much help as they can get on their wedding day, and I think it's a little silly to say that having someone around whose job it is to see to those last little details could ever be a burden.

    I think what it really comes down to is attitude! Some less-experienced wedding planners may not have learned yet how to tell everyone around them exactly what to do while making them think that it was their idea in the first place, (ha ha), and some vendors on the other side of the table, including site managers, may not have yet learned to take direction since they often make most of the decisions in their position. Perhaps the repetition and comfort of the same handful of spaces, linens, and menus has made some site managers reluctant to stray from the formula, so to speak, and a wedding planner always comes to the table with a new outlook and fresh ideas. This could be threatening -- or just feel like extra work from the wrong frame of mind.

    One way or another, we're always thrilled to work with a wedding planner or day-of-coordinator, provided that they're experienced. You just make the evening flow even better! We want happy brides and grooms, and the added layer of cushioning that a seasoned wedding planner adds is always welcome! Relaxed couples dance more, LOL!

  8. As a "site manager" at a local country club, I have always had mixed feelings on the subject. It's funny going into weddings without planners and seeing who decides to be "in charge". The Bride? The DJ? The Site Manager?

    When weddings have planners, I've actually found it to be nice, more often than not. Having one point person is ideal, in my opinion. We don't want to have five people approaching the bride on separate occasions asking if she's ready for dinner or if she's ready to cut the cake.

    We had a wedding ceremony & reception on site recently and it was the first time I really thought to myself, "I really wish she had a planner." She hated her flowers and I had to call the florist to remedy the issue. She hadn't delegated the logistics of her ceremony and we ended up doing everything from the music to opening the doors for her grand entrance. Our concern at that point, unfortunately, was how we were going to get cocktail hour up and running while we were here orchestrating her ceremony!

    One issue we've had working with planners concerns the kitchen. Due to safety and organization, we prefer to keep non-staff from coming in and out of our kitchen. Service is so important to us, that it's better if we not have an additional body making recommendations or questionning our dinner service (which has happened before).

    The only other issue we've run into is keeping up with a planner's schedule. When things are planned minute-by-minute, it almost never ends up going as planned. We absolutely want to keep the night moving along, but sometimes life throws you a wrench and everything is "off." As long as a planner can roll with the punches, we're happy :)

  9. Wow! It is definitely unfortunate when brides assume that the site managers, especially for hotels, will handle their set up of their little details (menus, programs, place cards, etc.). Since there is usually little communication between the site provider and the bride for things other than catering, linens, and chairs, this usually does not come up until the wedding day. The DIY bride is typically under the impression she can save money by just working with the site directly. Unfortunately, the bride does not realize that hers is not the only event happening, and that the site provider will NOT be there for the entire event until the end. Everything will be the BRIDE'S responsibilty on her wedding day by going this route. She should AT LEAST hire a wedding planner for the DAY OF the wedding.

    I try to impress on couples who contact me the difference between the wedding coordinator/planner and the site provider. I also make sure I meet with the events managers at the various sites to explain my style and process so they can rest assured that I will not be in the way, but help to make everything run smoothly. I will make them look even better, especially when the wedding day reflects nothing listed on the BEO and I make sure it is all repaired so the couple NEVER knows the difference.

    It is really important for the couple to hire an experienced and professional wedding coordinator...not just the person on Craig's List charging a very low fee and trying to IMPERSONATE a coordinator. Also, it should NOT be a family member impersonating a coordinator...this NEVER works out.

  10. Hi Guys
    I am a wedding planner in Ireland and our issue over here is that the venues call their site managers and banqueting managers "Wedding Planners" or "Wedding Coordinators"! This makes the differentiation between what I do and what a site manager does very difficult. Especially when on ALL wedding venue brochures one of the perks of signing up with their venue is “your very own personal wedding coordinator / Planner”. So I get brides asking me all the time about why when the venue is giving them a wedding planner would they hire me? They just don’t understand the difference or the benefits of our services, which is not their fault when all the venues are advertising like this.
    So the first meeting I have with a bride and groom will always outline the vast differences between what I do and what the venue Site manager or Banqueting manager will do for them.

  11. Hi All,
    I worked as a Hotel based Wedding Co-ordinator for two years and have now set-up my own Wedding Planning business for the simple reason that I wasn't getting as involved in the planning as I wanted to. At the venue, I was responsible for everything that took place within the hotel which was usually just the room layout, timings and catering. In my business i'm planning so much more, sourcing ALL suppliers and working with the bride and groom to give them the wedding they want within their budget. Luckily i've not had much resistance from people at venues... well not yet anyway!
    I just wish brides understood the difference...

  12. I am a Banquet Coordinator for a venue with a banquet hall and on-site catering. I have had a few brides with planners and I love them! I am not trying to organize a whole event for my couples. I only want their reception to be just as perfect as they had dreamed it would be. I offer referrals to other vendors that I have worked with or seen in action. If I like their style, I will recommend them. I take each and every brides special day to heart. My brides are very special to me, each and every one of them. I do my best to make my small part of their special day a cherished memory. The only question that I have is, if a bride has a planner, does that mean that I can't communicate with the bride directly? Do I have to go through the planner to have a question answered by the bride?

  13. Oh, the wedding planner...the bane of my weekend. No offense to you though.

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